One of my favourite diversions, when stalled on writing, is to search Google Books for examples of the use of similes. I set the search?”, like a”?for books in full view, published between 1600 and 1800.

This is a bit like priming the pump, but I find, in this way, as well, that I learn quite a bit about the period: how rural it generally is, for example, and how thundering the preachers were.

Here’s one charming example:

To know how to Divide one’s Life, like a Man of Tarts.

Many of the images have to do with moon- and starlight; in our well-lit world, we are not as aware of it:

like a gleam of light, amidst the dark verdure of the forest…

like a burning star falling

the moon came out of the sea like a spectre wan and vapoury

Images from the natural world are prominent:

like a woodcock caught in his own springe

like a little mole in the dark

I found him under a tree, like a dropp’d acorn.

stared like a stuck pig

its hair bristling like a hog

like a hare shot in form

like a rapacious vulture

like a beast of prey that tramples and howls

vex’d like a morning eagle

Did I know that eagles were vexed in the morning?

A number call up images of ghosts, spirits and the devil:

glides like a ghost

sneered like a devil

like a demon thing, or shadow hovering

passed from before her eyes like a phantom

I loved this:

that low sweet voice, like a widow’s moan

And this one is a puzzle:

That marriage is just like a Devonshire lane.

Any suggestions?